As children, we are taught to think for ourselves. We are taught subject matter, quietly, in a classroom setting. We do our homework alone before we can go hang out with our friends. And then, we are tested in a silent atmosphere. I would have never thought I would be involved in a career that would have me thinking, learning, teaching, and doing things as a group, team, or platoon. This career is unique, and it takes a special person to accept the calling.
So what are some important job functions we need to do as a team?
In the academy, I was told the only two things we do as an individual in this career is put on our bunkers, and use the restroom. Quite frankly, I’ve been in situations where both of these have been falsified. But only because I’m in the company of my brothers. Only because they are family. And as family, we need to watch each others back’s. We need to warn each other of the dangers, and the situations we are getting ourselves into. And as teams, we need to work together.
Many group topics come to mind, but one of the most overlooked is the planning stages of incidents prior to us ever receiving the call. Pre-planning our attacks as a company, should be done before the alarm ever sounds. We are looking for the dangers we’d have while in a non-emergent setting so as not to be surprised by them on the fireground. This way, they are already known when the fire comes in at 3:30 in the morning and the Grim Reaper is staring us in the face when we walk in the front door. Pre-plans are especially more important since the construction boom of the early 2000’s and lightweight frame is now becoming the norm, building after building. But just because the construction is becoming the same, are the hazards the same? Are the hazards the same today as they were back in the 80’s and 90’s, when some of these buildings were last inspected and walked thru by the 1st due company? Are the firemen that were involved back then still in your department today? Probably not…but that would be only one of many reasons why we should be walking through these buildings and knowing what’s inside prior to our initial dispatch. Fire inspections, building codes, and fire suppression/notification devices just fix the tip of the iceberg. Next time you go to an automatic fire alarm, or medical run in an unfamiliar building, give the maintenance guy a shout. Ask him to take the “nickel tour”. If not, it’s their right, but if you can, it could be the difference between yours or your crew-members’ life. Get out there, and go get it!
– The “Irons”
Throughout the year it’s important to reflect on where we’ve been and where we are headed. It’s good not just to reflect on the fire service but the world as a whole. After all, we serve the needs of humanity who are affected by disruptions caused by current world events and daily life.
Over the last few years we’ve had some exciting advances in space exploration. As humans, we’ve landed mobile science labs on Mars, launched probes out to Pluto and landed on a comet. Most notably is our incredible adventure of searching for life on other planets. It’s important to see the pale blue dot and realize
that life here on earth is massively insignificant to the rest of the universe. But it’s our piece of the pie and WE are ultimately responsible for it.
We’ve had and still have wars and conflict this past year in the Middle East and the outlook on that is still bleak. Asia is starting to stir up a little. Considering, the United States’ main export and the majority of our gross domestic product is our military-might we should all be paying attention.
At last years end we’re still losing, on average, one hundred firefighters per year and that statistic does not seem to be moving in the face of the numerous initiatives created to stop it. Our technology is getting better and science is assisting in adjusting our tactics to the changes in technologically advanced construction materials.
Last year at the Miami City Fire Academy, Lt. Almeida gave a half introduction speech/ half motivational speech to Miami City’s new recruits. It was an incredible display of fire service and military genius. It’s a must see if you haven’t. (Click here to watch) He raised a valid point about responding to aliens riding unicorns down main street. As an emergency response service, it’s important for us to be prepared to respond to everything, literally everything. One key point highlighted in the 9/11-commission report was that our leaders had a failure of imagination. As a people and our government we were taken by surprise that planes could be used as missiles and we were not prepared to respond to it because we failed to imagine that it could happen.
Keeping an open mind, shouldn’t we prepare for the unimaginable? Are aliens landing or even a ground war on U.S. soil unimaginable? Perhaps. But clearly, we are the folks charged with responding to the unimaginable. We would be the first to arrive in any situation. The military would not be able to respond as quickly as we could. Granted we wouldn’t be launching an offensive resistance but we would be trying to clean up the mess without becoming a casualty ourselves.
Back in 1992, William M. Kramer, Ph.D and Charles W. Bahme. J.D. published the 2nd edition of the Fire Officers Guide to Disaster Control published by Fire Engineering. The book is a great example of our pre-9/11 and pre-Presidential Directive #5 thought process. The manual stirred up a lot of controversy because of Chapter 13 entitled “Enemy Attack and UFO Potential.” How could these two highly educated men possibly pitch an idea such as preparing for alien invasion? Were they crazy? Or was Chapter 13 pure Fire Service genius?
The main idea we should take away from Chapter 13 of the Fire Officers Guide to Disaster Control, is to be prepared not only for an alien invasion but likewise, the unimaginable. It’s a call to broaden the scope of our thought process and to imagine the potential of our future failures.
There is nothing wrong with preparation, even if it’s weird. Writing a standard operating procedure that provides direction for incidents from bizarre plane crashes, military engagements, nuclear fallout, civil unrest, pandemic, unusual flash flooding and even alien invasion, answers the problem of failing to imagine potential emergencies. Again, we’re the people that have to show up to these things so why not piece together a procedure addressing it. Global “Weirding” is only going to cause more unusual incidents as time passes and as we ignore the environment.
It wasn’t out of the realm of possibility for there to be Los Angelos style civil unrest in Ferguson Missouri, but it happened and judging by the fire dept. radio traffic, the St. Louis area fire service responded amazingly. That’s a credit to pre-planning.
The farther we reach into space the greater the chance we have of running into microscopic life and even intelligent life. Far fetched? Sure, but not entirely improbable. Just like every other incident that “could” potentially happen. You have to plan for the unimaginable
Start every month or year by taking pride in your pre-planning. Write an SOP for the unimaginable and review it annually. It’s ok to sit around with your shift and brainstorm. Your wildest imagination may not be so wild once the call drops. We’ve all had those moments post dispatch where we trot to the truck and think, “What did she just dispatch me too?” or “This ought to be interesting.” Well, If you had a better imagination those thoughts may never surface and you’d find yourself thinking, “Oh yeah, we anticipated this could happen, I’m glad we trained for it.”